Mercia meets – Jason Hobbs, CEO of North East Fund Limited

What are the objectives of the North East Fund?

Our vision is for the North East to be a vibrant place for businesses to start up and grow, and for that to happen, our companies must have access to the finance that this requires. Unfortunately, this region has historically not been particularly well served by the traditional providers of capital, and hence the rationale for implementing the North East Fund. We want to ensure that investment finance is readily available for all North East companies, regardless of their size or where in the region they are located.  We invest in companies with only one or two employees, as well as those with up to 250, and cover the whole of the region – from Berwick to Sedgefield, from Hexham to South Shields, and everywhere in between. Our aim is for those companies to develop and grow, increasing both employment and economic prosperity in the region.

What impact has it had so far?

Almost 250 businesses have received investment since the fund was launched in April 2017, with over £93m of funding having been provided, either directly or in conjunction with co-investment partners. These are all businesses that for whatever reason, have been unable to raise finance elsewhere. We are investing in a whole range of sectors, from manufacturing to healthcare, engineering to marketing agencies, as well as digital and IT, so we are really impacting on the whole of the economy. We expect to invest in over 600 different companies over the course of the next few years, and increase employment levels by over 3,500 – that’s a major impact on our region.

What’s the best single piece of advice you can offer North East entrepreneurs seeking finance?

Don’t think that these funds are not for you – they are! We offer a range of finance packages, to businesses of varying sizes, sectors and locations, just like yours. Pick up the phone and talk to either us or one of our fund managers. It’s not necessary to have a fully formed business plan before you go to see them. We have tried to make the North East Fund as accessible as possible, so my one piece of advice would be to start the conversation now.  We are here to support North East SMEs – why shouldn’t your business be our next investment?

How would you describe Mercia as an investment partner?

We are delighted that Mercia is managing part of the North East Fund, as they share our vision for what can be achieved here in the region. Fund managers help to create that vibrant market for investment finance that makes the North East such an exciting place to do business. It is pleasing to note the significant amounts of private capital being invested alongside the Venture Fund, much of which has come from Mercia’s own funds.This means that we can support much larger deals than we would be able to do on our own. We look forward to continuing to work with them in supporting ambitious businesses here in the North East for many years to come.